Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Introducing On the Same Page (A Study in Language and Intersubjectivity)

This video introduces the "On the Same Page" (OtSP) project, a collaborative study in participatory sense making that includes clinical/neural psychology, language/narrative and performance art. It is a project initiative within the SITE initiative in the Department of Psychology at Umeå University, Sweden.

My component of the project involves the opportunity to theorise the expansion of language in the On the Same Page Project. Embodied communication and the semiotics of the three-dimensional are just two areas that are outside the realms of verbal language but that at the same time define and support the space we share when we communicate with each other with spoken and written language.

Symbolic modes that are bound up with the spatial -  for example clothing, body modification (such as tattooing) and gender play -  are examples that are common for negotiating the social today. These realms of communication can be seen as exemplified in the gesture. Sign language is perhaps the most developed mode for gestural communication, but we all use gesture to communicate. Gestures are shared as nodes in the cultural fabric of reality. In fact I would argue that gestures are a primary mode for expression and experimentation within the components of social identity today. New media, such as video games, exploit gesture as a mode of communication to both convey narrative and engage in play.

My contribution to OtSP is to take up the non-verbal elements that are aspects of communication and place them in broader communicative contexts. The spatial is perhaps the most obvious of these broader contexts. I look forward to experimenting with how performance can intersect with shared spatial codes to result in evidence of intersubjectivity in relation to communication and ultimately identity and meaning. My hope is that the results of these experiments will be in the direction of contemporary narrative studies.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Introduction to Thesis Chapter Two: The Spatial in the Digital Preface

Figure 2.1: Dreamaphage introduction, describing the spaces of the work in the contexts of narrative. 

This chapter examines how the prefaces to the digital works introduce the spatial in preparation for reader interaction. This preparation is manifest in two forms: firstly, as representations of space; and secondly, in the establishment of representational space. The representation of space follows a tendency “towards a system of verbal (and therefore intellectually worked out) signs” (Lefebvre 39), which are manifest in the prefaces as maps, diagrams and images. These systems include rules for interaction with the digital works. In conjunction with the representation of space, representational space in the prefaces “overlays physical space, making symbolic use of its objects” and is composed of “more or less coherent systems of non-verbal symbols and signs” (Lefebvre 39). The prefaces introduce the reader to representational space via narrative elements such as characters and objects. By examining these features of representational space, I establish how the prefaces introduce the reader to the digital texts, and in particular interaction with them, but positioning her in relation to the spaces of narrative. I argue the prefaces establish representational space and the representation of space and in doing so establish rules related to the spatial for interacting with the digital works. Interaction is represented in the prefaces on the condition of compliance: firstly, with the rules of the representation of space; and secondly, with the objects, characters and narrative references introduced within representational space. By introducing spaces in the works thus, the prefaces assert control over interaction with the digital works.
              The prefaces introduce the spatial as the means for achieving goals. In the preface to Dreamaphage (See Figure 2.1) a cure is said to reside in the dreams of the characters, where “all other methods are errors. The words of these books, their dreams, contain the cure” (Dreamaphage). The prefaces guide the reader towards the goal of the cure “hidden in the dreams themselves”. The preface describes Dreamaphage as containing hidden elements deep within its spatial structures, including “dozens of hidden buttons and lost texts,” that are “leading to the books” (Dreamaphage Preface). These emphasized points, buttons, objects, lost texts and the books, represent stages moving toward (“leading to”) goals. The prefaces to Egypt also suggest goals (e.g. the command; “You may not want to read it now, but take it with you when you go!” Egypt), which focus on a presence for the reader in the spaces of the text.  In this context of goals, space is more than just a structural component to the texts; it functions as a representative meta-medium governing all interaction, including reading and navigation. This structuring follows the meta-organizing principles I have already described as grounded in Lefebvre’s tri-partite model of production. In the digital works, the reader is given specific goals, such as locating the name spell in Egypt or the cure to the dreamaphage virus in Dreamaphage, and solving the relationship problems in Façade of Grace and Trip, “an attractive and materially successful couple in their early thirties” (Façade website). I argue that these instructions are attempts to prescribe interaction with the spaces of the works.
              I begin by describing the prefaces as examples of remediation how the referencing of older media sets the initial boundaries for interaction. I argue this remediation is a controlling element in the prefaces and is part of their paratextual function. I then explain how the prefaces prepare the reader for the spatial components of the works. I go on to clarify how the prefaces reference the space of the texts, and as a result position the reader in relation to interaction. The prefaces to Façade are the website; (ii) a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ); and (iii) “Behind the Façade” (a PDF document published separately from the other two components).[1] Egypt’s prefaces are; (i) the introduction (with dedication, Figure 2.2 below); (ii) the Glossary and Rubric; (iii) the maps (Figure 2.4); and (iv) the “Papyrus Sections” (Figure 2.4). The Dreamaphage prefaces are; i) the introduction from the published work by the Electronic Literature Organization; (ii) a further two-stage introduction; and (iii) a brief Help guide.[2] The preface to Last Meal Requested is a description of narrative context but does not prescribe reading. Last Meal Requested is also archived at the Rhizome Artbase (, where it features a prefatory artist statement introducing the main themes of the work.[3] I argue that the prefaces prescribe  interaction in how space is first presented in maps and diagrams according to representations of space and through representational space.

[1] “Behind the Façade” can be ordered as a PDF document from the authors. It is sent via email once a five dollar charge is paid online.
[2] Both the prefaces to Dreamaphage are accessible from
[3] The present study works with the copy kept at